Monday, July 21, 2014

Join the Retro Alternative Revolution!

My last post discussed the idea of embracing some of the classic shapes of surfing's history.  I mentioned that I have been riding some of the early 1970s transition shapes--in particular, a Bing Glass Slipper and a G&S Little Gypsy.  These boards were the precursor to the shortboard revolution, way before everyone thought they needed a potato chip board because that is what the pros were riding, but also a precursor to the current "alternative" board revolution.  It is the latter movement in the surf industry that I find so interesting.  For decades the idea was to go not only shorter, but smaller in overall volume--thin in the rails and narrow in outline.  This peaked in the 90s with boards becoming tiny and everyone thinking they could ride them because we saw the pros ripping up the best waves in the world on these boards.  But for most of us, we don't surf like the pros nor do we surf the waves they surf.  Something had to change so that the average surfer could enjoy surfing again.  I don't know about you, but paddling around on a sub-6 foot board that barely floats my aging body is simply not fun.  Nor is it fun to sit on the beach and watch the kids that have so much potential flounder around in the water because they too want to surf the smallest board possible when in fact, they simply aren't ready for those board. 

That change began with the rise of the "alternative" board revolution.  The ideas was to create a board for those of us that didn't want a longboard, but still needed more float than the typical ASP surfer's board.  A board that remained short but was wide and fat.  A board that had the float and paddle power for us average surfers to glide on those small, mushy days or get in a bit earlier when things got bigger. Every board company now has an alternative board list or a summer board list, but of course this has also gotten to be a bit out of control.  Instead of telling your average surfer (both in size and ability) to grab a nice alternative shape with dimensions like 6'2" x 22" x 3", the industry started pushing this guy/gal to grab a 5'8" or a 5'6"; again, taking a good thing and going too far with it. Now don't get me wrong, there are guys/gals that can rip on these boards.  But many of those tearing it up on a 5'8" aren't your average surfer.  So what are the rest of us to do? 

What we need is a revolution that truly pays homage to the early transition board era, a revolution that captures the boards of the early 1970s, with their fat, wide and relatively short outlines. Take the Bing Glass Slipper that I rode (pictured above). That board is 6'2" x 21" x 3 1/2"! Yeah, it is FAT to say the least.  But you know what, it works!  The first day I rode it one of my buddies looked at me after I just took on to the beach and said, "You gotta get one of those."  And he was right. 

So Matador set out to help in a retro alternative board revolution (a new phrase that I think best captures what these shapes should be) by creating the Right Coast Rocket (pictured here). The Rocket takes many of its cues from those classic late 60s and early 70s transition boards while infusing the design with some modern materials and other tweaks.  Let's start with the wide, thick outline and a center point pushed forward.  The dimensions on this board are 6'5" x 3 1/4" x 22".  Now many of our stock boards are not quite os thick (I had this board custom shaped to really mimic the old transition boards), but they remain big, usually around 22" and close to 3" thick.  It is a big board with loads of volume.  But I don't understand why so many people see this as a drawback.  The problem with many of those shortboard shapes is they don't provide the paddle power or speed that many of us need because we simply can't produce it on our own. The Rocket gives you the ability to paddle easily, pick up waves early and blast through those flat spots.  It is just plain fast down the line, but that great top to bottom flow that exudes style. The diamond tail gives a little more bite, and in the stock board we have added a couple of little buddies on the side to help with hold and drive.  This adds a bit more versatility to the bard so that it can run in knee high summer slop while still holding in those head high waves.  But it accomplishes this versatility without being completely over the top like many of the modern alternative boards. 

I have always wondered why anyone would need a five-fin setup in a short, wide, fat board.  This seems to fly in the face of history and what works in this style board.  Why not stick with what has always worked and keep the option of a single fin.  In fact, I prefer mine as a straight single fin to give it more of a classic feel.  So even if you want the versatility of side bites, don't be afraid to go classic and run it with just that big fin down the middle. Besides, there is something stylish about running a single fin (or at least that is how I feel when riding one).  To me it seems like a thruster should be ridden in anger, but a single fin should be ridden with a smooth, fluid style.  This is not to say that a single fin can't tear into a wave, pull that big floater or the fin out the back.  In fact, it can do all this and do it with style! One only need to watch the classic videos of Buttons, Bertlemann, and the other greats of the 70s to realize that.  But I have always felt that a single fin had a more fluid feel to it than a thruster or even a quad, which is where it gets all its style. 

In the end, if you are looking for a great board for smaller waves think retro--retro alternative like the Right Coast Rocket.  But don't be afraid to take it out on that head high day either.  It will get you in early, make that steep drop, and hold your line better than most boards.  In short, think single fin for that smooth classic ride.  This shape just goes--top to bottom, rail to rail, it is one of the best boards I have ridden.  With its speed and drive, it will allow you to take your surfing to the next level and pull all the big sweeping cutbacks, fantastic floater and vertical off the lips that you want.  So if you love those classic shapes, join the retro alternative revolution.  And remember, surf for fun! 


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